Google’s mission today is the same as when we were founded over 20 years ago: to make the internet accessible and useful for everyone. That includes building for the next billion people coming online around the world over the next few years.
Through our Next Billion Users initiative, we pursue new technical solutions to help these users get more from the internet. These efforts range from building lite apps (YouTube Go, Google Go and more), offline features (such as YouTube and Maps Offline), to country-specific products like Tez (now Google Pay India) and platforms like Android Go to bring lower-cost devices to customers.
Google Station is one such effort. We launched Station in India in 2015, as a partnership between Google, Indian Railways and Railtel to bring fast, free public WiFi to over 400 of the busiest railway stations in India by mid-2020. But we crossed that number by June 2018 and implemented Station in thousands of other locations around the country in partnership with telecommunications companies, ISPs and local authorities. Over time, partners in other countries asked for Station too and we responded accordingly. We’re grateful for these partnerships, especially with the Indian Railways and the Government of India, that helped us serve millions of users over the last few years.
India has been at the heart of our efforts to increase access to the internet, be it through low cost devices, helping people search and use online tools in popularly spoken Indian languages, or making the Assistant available on feature phones. We’re also helping to skill small businesses and women around the country on how to use the internet so they use it to enhance their lives and those of their communities, and customising our products like Search, Maps and YouTube to meet the unique needs of Indians.
As we look to the next phase of enabling access, it’s clear that since we started five years ago, getting online has become much simpler and cheaper. Mobile data plans have become more affordable and mobile connectivity is improving globally. India, specifically now has among the cheapest mobile data per GB in the world, with mobile data prices having reduced by 95% in the last 5 years, as per TRAI in 2019. Today, Indian users consume close to 10 GB of data, each month, on average*. And similar to what the Indian government did, several governments and local entities have kicked off their own initiatives to provide easier, cost-effective access to the internet for everyone.
In addition to this changed context, the challenge of varying technical requirements and infrastructure among our partners across countries has also made it difficult for Station to scale and be sustainable, especially for our partners. And when we evaluate where we can truly make an impact in the future, we see greater need and bigger opportunities in building products and features tailored to work better for the next billion user markets.
Therefore, we've made the decision to gradually wind down the Station program globally, through 2020. We are working with our partners to transition existing sites so they can remain useful resources for the community.
Our commitment to supporting the next billion users remains stronger than ever, from continuing our efforts to make the internet work for more people; building more relevant and helpful apps and services; providing digital skills training for users and businesses and creating platforms that are helpful and empower developers and internet users around the world.
*Ericsson Mobility Report 2019
Posted by Caesar Sengupta, VP - Payments and Next Billion Users, Google